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 Baby Bacteria: Bifidobacterium infantis

Baby Bacteria Bifidobacterium infantis

Author Natasha Trenev

Let me share some exciting new research with you. “Good Bacteria Help Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Researchers at the University College Cork, Ireland, reported that B. infantis relieves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Good news indeed for those who experience the crippling effects of cramping, diarrhea and constipation.

     These findings have provided hope for the 50 million Americans (primarily women) suffering from this condition and a new application for B. infantis, a beneficial bacterium found in the intestines of healthy infants. The reason this species is so important is one of nature's amazing stories.

     The fetus lives in a sterile environment, but within a few days of birth, a relatively stable microflora is established in the colon – from zero to about ninety-nine percent Bifidobacterium sub species, when the infant is healthy, vaginally delivered and breast-fed.

     Where does the intestinal microflora come from? Babies acquire the flora from their mother and from the environment. Components in breast milk stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium sub species. But nothing is perfect. A study at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania found that only twenty percent of breast-fed infants (in a sample of 61) had a significant number of bifidobacteria. In a study conducted at a suburban hospital, just two-thirds of breast-fed babies (in a sample of 21) had significant numbers of bifidobacteria.

     Research teams at the University of Turku, Finland, have undertaken extensive studies of the role of bifidobacteria and intestinal bacteria in the worldwide increase of atopic diseases (asthma, eczema, rhinitis, dermatitis) in children. The results indicate that increased incidence of allergies is linked to reduced numbers of Bifidobacterium sub species. in the gut.

     In 2004, scientists took a further step and demonstrated that B. infantis is the critical factor in allergic response. They examined babies in Ghana, where the incidence of allergies is low, and compared them to babies in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where the incidence of allergies is more than twice as much. The missing link was shown to be B. infantis, found only in the Ghana infants. When compared with the other species of Bifidobacterium, the protective properties of B. infantis smoothed the allergic response of the immune system.

     What distinguishes B. infantis from the hundreds of species that live in the gastrointestinal tract is explained by a Canadian research group. The walls of the colon are a perfect home for B. infantis to grow and crowd out other groups of undesirable bacteria. To guarantee its dominance in the “bug-eat-bug world” of the colon, B. infantis holds the trump card. It manufactures a sticky carbohydrate compound that allows the bacteria to bond to the cells of the intestinal walls, enabling B. infantis to thrive for the mutual benefit of the host.

“... B. infantis has been shown to prevent invasion of the gut epithelial layer by Bacteroides, a bacterium thought to be responsible for inflammatory bowel conditions.”

And to add another dimension to its beneficial properties, B. infantis has been shown to prevent invasion of the gut epithelial layer by Bacteroides, a bacteria thought to be responsible for inflammatory bowel conditions. The exciting development in the latest findings from Ireland is that measurements of inflammatory markers were made and B. infantis reduced inflammation in the gut. The subsequent relief of IBS symptoms was comparable to that seen with two well-known drugs. B. infantis is the right start for infants and is the natural choice for those with IBS.